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The national dance of the Philippines, Tinikling is the most popular folk dance in the country. In English, Tinikling translates to “bamboo dance.” (Because of the large bamboo poles that are used. Aside from the people dancing, there are two people hitting bamboo poles on the ground in coordination with one or more dancers who step over and in between the poles). The dance is inspired by the movement of the tikling (or heron) bird. The dance imitates the way the bird walks, runs, and jumps. The dancers attempt to re-create the tikling’s grace with their arm movements and fancy footwork avoiding the poles. The dance can be compared to jumping rope.

The dance originated in the Visayan Islands, where according to folklore, it had an unpleasant beginning. Supposedly, when the Spanish invaded, the natives were forced to work for the Spanish in the fields. If workers were too slow, they were sent to stand between to bamboo poles. The poles sometimes had thorns in them. To reprimand the workers, the bamboo poles were snapped together. Instinctually people would jump in our outside of the poles to avoid getting poked in the feet. From far away, those who did this looked like the graceful tikling bird.

Because the dance is so unique and also provides an excellent opportunity for exercise, the dance has spread to other countries. In the US, Tinikling is taught in many elementary school physical education classes. Educators find that teaching the dance is a great way for students to learn about a new culture while being physically active. Tinikling is a great cardio workout, in addition to being a fun challenge. The traditional music is very upbeat, paired with the clapping of the bamboo on the floor, it makes you want to keep hopping!

This awesome dance is all about the footwork. There are three basic Tinikling dance steps: Singles, Doubles, and Hops. These three combined make up all the steps in Tinikling. The singles and doubles refer to the number of feet that will touch the floor at a given step. In singles, only one foot touches the floor while doubles mean both do. Hops mean you cross over the poles to complete one routine of the Tinikling dance. In terms of partnering, the dance can be performed in groups of four, with one couple dancing and the other couple holding the poles. When the couple dancing makes a mistake, the couple operating the bamboo gets to take a turn. While not a competition, it sure raises the stakes and makes the dance exciting!

We’re considering grabbing a few friends and trying the dance tonight.

Image courtesy of www.kababayangpilipino.org

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